Once in a while, I find a brother-in-beard — someone whose beard cilia reach for my own and we enter a hive-like state where we commune with our hirsute overlord and OH you don’t want to hear about that. You want to hear how beardly Brian McClellan talks about his new bad-ass book, Promise of Blood, right? Right.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
I’m Brian McClellan; epic fantasy writer, amateur beekeeper, computer gamer, reader, husband, son, brother. My job is to entertain you.
GIVE US THE 140-CHARACTER STORY PITCH:
Muskets and magic. Guillotines and bayonets. Revolution and revenge. This is flintlock fantasy with smoke rising from the barrel.
WHERE DOES THIS STORY COME FROM?
It comes from a desire to see what happens to a fantasy world when it progresses into an industrial age. How does the magic evolve with the technology? How do the old regimes fall, and what rises to take their place?
HOW IS THIS A STORY ONLY YOU COULD’VE WRITTEN?
It’s very personal story because it comes from my own eclectic tastes and desires. I love epic fantasy; the sense of adventure, the second-world nature of the stories, and of course the magic. I also have a great interest in historical figures like Napoleon Bonaparte—the driving force behind him and the volatile time period in which he lived.
I wanted to write a story that would appeal to a wide demographic. There’s nothing new in the desire of a writer to craft something that will sell well. The idea of epic fantasy in an industrializing world had a newness about it that appealed to both my artistic and business sense. It seemed like a great way to give a fresh flare to an old genre.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING PROMISE OF BLOOD?
I was offered agent representation by the awesome Caitlin Blasdell based upon my first draft. The first thing she said to me, though, was that we needed to edit before she’d submit it to publishing houses. Little did I know that by “edit” she meant rewrite half the damn book.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s ten times the book it was and I’m so glad that Caitlin made me rewrite huge sections. But that year of editing after having finally gotten an agent was extremely difficult.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN WRITING PROMISE OF BLOOD?
I learned a lot about pacing a 160,000 word novel. That size of a book can become an unwieldy beast. It takes plotting and thorough notes to keep track of everything going on inside.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT PROMISE OF BLOOD?
The cover art.
No, seriously. Take a look at that art. Orbit did a fantastic job on that cover.
In terms of what’s inside the book—I love that it’s entertaining. That’s what I’m here for, after all. I’m not asking deep philosophical questions of my readers. I’m asking them to have a good time. The characters are relatable, the story moves quickly, and people will have fun reading it.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?
More central female characters. I am a little terrified of writing a female viewpoint badly, so all three of the main viewpoint characters are men.
While there are some seriously badass women in the book, the reader doesn’t get much of a chance to see the world through their eyes. I’d like to do that in the future.
GIVE US YOUR FAVORITE PARAGRAPH FROM THE STORY:
Not a single paragraph, but a short exchange. Field Marshal Tamas is interviewing the young sergeant chosen to be his new bodyguard:
Tamas watched the man for another few moments. Among the troops, Olem was well known and well liked—he could shoot, box, ride, play cards or billiards. He was an everyman as far as soldiers were concerned.
“You’ve one mark on your record,” Tamas said. “You once punched a na-baron in the face. Broke his jaw. Tell me about that.”
Olem grimaced. “Officially, sir, I was pushing him out of the way of a run-away carriage. Saved his life. Half my company saw it.”
“With your fist?”
“The man was a git. He shot my dog because it startled his horse.”
“And if I ever have cause to shoot your dog?”
“I’ll punch you in the face.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A STORYTELLER?
The sequel, THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN, is coming out from Orbit Books in February of 2014. The third book in the series should be out around September of 2014.
After that? Who knows.
I’ve got a lot more stories floating around in my head—a young adult historical fantasy, another epic fantasy series, and more books in the Powder Mage universe. Time permitting, you’ll get to see them all.